Ukrainian Basketball Player Taunted with 'Russia' Chants During Game: 'Extremely Upsetting'

The Colorado State Rams later called the behavior "unacceptable" in a statement addressing the taunts

Utah State guard Max Shulga grabs the ball as San Jose State guard Alvaro Cardenas (13) and guard Omari Moore defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)
Photo: Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP

Ukrainian basketball player Max Shulga was met with unsettling chants during a game between the Utah State Aggies and the Colorado State Rams.

The 20-year-old junior at Utah State was standing at the free-throw line during the final minute of Saturday's game when the chants broke out.

According to The Washington Post, fans seated in Colorado State's student section began chanting "Russia" repeatedly, likely to distract Shulga from scoring at the line while Utah State was up 83-77 on the home team.

The Utah State guard later said the chants taunting him with the name of the country that invaded Ukraine were "disappointing" and "extremely upsetting."

Shortly after the game, the Colorado State Rams released a statement regarding the taunts via Twitter. The team said they "became aware" of the chants after the game, per the team's post. "On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community."

The team also said that "something like this" from its students is "unacceptable at Colorado State."

An additional apology came from Colorado State Rams' basketball coach Niko Medved. "I have so much respect for @USUBasketball and Max Shulga," Medved tweeted. "We have amazing fans and students but this is not acceptable! My sincere apologies."

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: Justin Ahrens #2 of the Loyola Marymount Lions drives past Max Shulga #11 of the Utah State Aggies during the second half of a game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Steve Marcus/Getty

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Shulga released a statement in response to Medved and the Rams' statements, thanking Colorado State for their "immediate support and understanding" after the incident.

"This has been an extremely difficult and challenging year with my family and loved ones so far away and living in constant danger," Shulga said. "I pray daily for the conflict to come to a close and for peace to be restored for my people in Ukraine."

The Utah State basketball player said that the chants were "extremely upsetting in the moment," but he understands that "emotions can run high during competition."

Shulga's statement also said that he accepts and appreciates Colorado State's apology. "I hope you will all join me in praying for peace in Ukraine," he added.

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